When planning our recent trip to Italy, we were quite late in the game. We had only scheduled to spend a day at Mamete Prevostini, and the rest of the trip was just open. wide open. No visits no restaurant reservation, nothing. Does not sound like us at all. However, as it turned out, being spontaneous was not a bad thing. The trip to Valtellina was one of the highlights of the year. Following a tip from a friend, we were lucky enough to be able to book a last minute visit to famous local nebbiolo producer ARPEPE. Thank you Atte for the recommendation!
ARPEPE winery was started in 1984 by Arturo Pelizzatti Perego, who took on tending to his familys beautiful, but challenging terraced vineyards in the valley of Valtellina. As I have written before, the hills in Valtellina are steep and rocky. All of the work is done by hand: picking as well as carrying the grapes in small baskets downhill to the winery. Arturos idea from the start was to focus on growing high quality grapes and long aging of the wines. For realising his vision, he needed patience. Arturo waited for six harvests before releasing his first wine. Today the ARPEPE is managed by Arturos children: Isabella, Emanuele and Guido.
It was a sunny morning when we pulled into the driveway of ARPEPE in the village of Sondrio. The facilities appeared to be in the middle of the town, but when arriving we were face to face with the steep vineyard, rising up the north hill. We were greeted by Arturos daughter Isabella, who was our guide for the morning. As we were late in booking, we did not really have a lot of time for touring in the production, but we were able to peek in quickly. The winery is actually located under the vineard, carved into the rock on the base of the hill. The most noticeable feature in the winery was the fermentation vats or rather barrels. They are large wood vessels holding 50 HL of wine. The mix of oak, chestnut and acacia is the same as is used for the aging (barrels) of the wines. Isabella also told us that they are extremely picky when it comes to what wine is made from each plot and harvest. Some years ARPEPE has only made their entry-level easy to drink table wine Rosso di Valtellina, as the output has not reached the quality or yield for making a suitable vintage.
ARPEPE has vineyards in three of five parts of Valtellina: Inferno, Sassella and Grumello. All areas have a differing terroir, thus resulting in a different type of wine. Another interesting detail is that ARPEPE has at least ten different clones of nebbiolo growing in their vineyards. They like trying out new clones to see how the vines develop in the challenging high-altitude environment. Christina and her brothers replace one vine at a time, so the diversity in the fields is rich and the siblings believe it contributes to the richness of the wine. More about the terroir in my post on Wineweek 90. ARPEPE makes a separate vintage from each area. The type of vintages they make depends completely on the assesment on the harvest harvest. The younger vintages are released five years after the harvest and the old ones after nine. ARPEPE chooses which (youg or old) the yield is used for, it is one or the other (or none). Not both.
After the tour we moved into the beautiful building next to the vineyards, which is the ARPEPE office and tasting room. It is designed by Isabellas architecht husband. The interior is seemingly bathing in light. I really loved it (and the light was perfect for taking good pictures). We tasted alltogether four wines: the Rosso, the young Grumello Rocca de Piro 2011, the Grumello Buon Consiglia 2007 and the il Pettirosso 1999. What really took me was the freshness of all of their wines. Amazing that even the -99 had no signs of stuffiness what so ever. From young to old, the nebbiolos had a nice light and spicy character, that I now recognize as the signature style of Valtellina. Prices we felt were very reasonable, ranging from around 15€ for the entry-level Rosso to ~40€ something for the Ultimi Racci which is the sforzato-type (but not a sforzato!) intense top of the line bottle. We walked out with a nice mixed box to take home.
I am very keen on writing more about the ARPEPE wines, but I will take rather as proper reviews as opposed a quick walk through in this post. Each of the ARPEPE wine deserve to be in the spotlight. If you are interested in a visit, ARPEPE is happy to receive guests as long as you give them a few weeks notice. You can find the contact details for the winery at their homepage.
Thank you ARPEPE and Isabella for the wonderful visit.